Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Dilemma — September 22, 2020

Dilemma

I am in the middle of The Social Dilemma, another deeply disturbing Netflix documentary on the manipulation of each and every one of us by our devices, or to be more accurate, by our social media. Our devices are simply plastic rectangles, not villainous beings bent on our destruction. I guess social media isn’t exactly bent on our destruction, either, it/they just want our thoughts, money and behavior. Our destruction wouldn’t further those goals.

However, it might depend on what your idea of destruction is.

The dilemma for me is easy to spot, Amazon Prime Music Unlimited releases a “My Discovery Mix” every Monday based on a similar personal information algorithm that knows me (or at least the virtual “me” if there’s a difference) and what I will like. I don’t know these songs and have usually never heard of these artists. As a long-time music snob, that pains me to say, but the truth is that this dastardly algorithm is mostly always right, I DO like it and my life is better with these songs in it.

Last night I looked up Kanye 2020 t-shirts and am absolutely positive that when I open Facebook today to see if anyone “liked” the video I posted yesterday, thus validating my worth and value as a human being, I’ll see ads for Kanye and his political “Birthday Party.” Maybe I’ll order from one of those ads. I don’t even have to search anymore, the advertisers will bring the options to me from now on.

I have a degree in marketing and advertising. The point is to convince the consumer that he/she/we are lacking something, that he/she/we are incomplete without this cleaning product, pair of jeans, or newest vegan hamburger. THE POINT is to affirm our deepest fear, that we are not enough. So we buy their widget in great faith and discover we are still missing something vital to our lives. The cycle repeats endlessly, keeping everyone in business. The industry of self-destruction.

So, am I cool to be used, my strings pulled like a mindless marionette, in exchange for the convenience of Kanye 2020 t-shirts and new songs? I’m going to make my family watch this film because they have been born into the matrix and have some decisions to make. Maybe they’ll continue on the path of progress, but they’ll have to mindfully choose to do so with all of the information. If my spouse is abusive, I can stay or I can go, but all of our cards have to be on the table. There will be no more feigning surprise and outrage.

Yes, Facebook is selling us. “If you’re not paying for the product, you ARE the product.” We can decide if that price is too high for the benefit, but we can no longer pretend to be unwitting marks.

I love to see pictures of my family and cat memes and People Are Awesome compilations. I love to hate the comment threads on our local school district’s parents group page. Maybe that’s enough. Who knows? But I’ll decide. Or maybe I just think I’ll be deciding and will instead be walking the path Mark Zuckerberg has paved for me. I wonder if I even know the difference anymore.

But I haven’t finished it yet. Maybe it has a happy ending.

The Politics Of Pandemics — April 6, 2020

The Politics Of Pandemics

The coronavirus, COVID-19, has upended every aspect of our world and our lives. The worst-case scenario of 100,000 deaths in this country alone was floated last week, prior to new stay-at-home orders and new recommendations to wear masks anytime we leave our homes. By the time I post this, it’s entirely possible that the numbers and regulations will have changed. So much about this virus is unknown and, in a world that worships knowledge and control, the utter lack of knowledge and control might be the biggest attack on our way of life.

Now. Smoking-related deaths number almost 500,000/year, obesity kills over 300,000/year, and nearly 100,000 due to alcohol. Almost a million Americans die from these big three, and they are advertised everywhere as a privilege, a right, a reward. Why are they not seen as, at the very least, equally destructive pandemics? As killers? Why are we confined to our homes, isolated, for COVID-19, while alcohol (a substance that takes the same amount of lives every year, not to mention the broken marriages, families, relationships, and lives it leaves behind) is considered a life-sustaining enterprise and sold in grocery stores???

(I understand the dangers of the horror of withdrawal that necessitate the ‘life-sustaining’ designation, but I also understand many illegal drugs carry the same danger…Should drug-dealers be considered ‘life-sustaining?’ I know I know, I’m told they’re different, but it’s really only different because 1 is illegal and the other isn’t, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.)

Of course I have an agenda with alcohol and the entire system of self-destruction that willfully turns their head while they line their pockets. It’s filthy and offensive to allow cigarettes and alcohol in every convenience store while regulating the time and reason we are allowed to come out of our homes, because for heaven’s sakes, we all need to be protected and cared for!!! The hypocrisy is stunning and revolting. Maybe we would all be back at work and school and sporting events and concerts if this virus had the same public relations/lobbyists, the same deep pockets as tobacco and alcohol.

Now, I am not at all advocating for the stay-at-home order to be lifted and we go back to business as usual. I’ll stay here for as long as they tell me to and wear my mask to pick up my milk and toilet paper. But maybe we should stop pretending our motives are selfless and altruistic, a nation of loving big brothers who care only for our collective well-being, and instead call it all what it is: business.

More On Releasing Everything — February 14, 2020

More On Releasing Everything

I might call this The Tension of Trying (and Failing) to Know What To Release.

What I have been being taught for the last 44 years and that I am beginning to actually learn is that I (or you or Barack Obama or Donald Trump or Tony Robbins or anybody) has practically zero real influence on anyone else. You might think you see something that is not, um, let’s use the parlance of the day and say: “living my best life,” and want something different, better for me.

Now, let’s for a minute say that you’re right. Let’s put aside all of the ways we try to fix or fit each other into the boxes that make us comfortable without a clue as to what might be good or healthy or desirable for the other, ok? You’re right, the thing you see IS in fact causing me to not live my best life. Now what? In all likelihood, I don’t care. Not even a little.

Nearly without exception, we gravitate to the people and ideas with which we agree. This is why Fox News, MSNBC, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher exist and have such wide audiences. Not a soul on the right watches Maher and no leftist would be caught dead listening to Limbaugh. The things that make the deepest impressions are those that we already believe shared in a fresh manner, with clever words and phrases.

People will do what people will do. I will change only if and when I am good and ready to change, or when God stops me on the road to Damascus and transforms me. We don’t change each other. Then why we do this dance of buying the delusion that we can “speak into” another’s life? Of course it’s pride, like everything else, but whose?

Is it yours, for thinking it is your place to point me down the right path? For thinking you know the right path? Isn’t that arrogant and more than a little self-righteous?

Or is it mine, for not listening to what may be wisdom? For not being open to new (often opposing and wildly uncomfortable) ideas and concepts? For protecting my current paradigm against all foreign attack?

Both. So now what?

First and foremost, I guess we focus on becoming the kind of people who listen to the externals, sifting the wisdom from the agenda-driven narcissism, and evaluating it honestly. And we release the rest. We don’t just throw Sgt. Pepper’s in the garbage because it doesn’t sound like Help! We look for the truth and adopt it. We aren’t really supposed to dig deep ruts to plant our feet and stay the same forever. We shed the constricting old skins, instead wearing coverings of perpetual growth.

But as far as getting our observations, advice or best intentions all over anyone else? As far as asking them to focus on that same growth? We probably release that.

But isn’t it natural and, yes, loving to want lives of peace and joy for others? What if your experience might be valuable? What if you have a heart that beats for others and you are well aware that the biggest blind spot is our own mirror? What if you simply want to help?

I don’t know. This is the “tension” of the title. On a cynical day, I’d say nobody cares what you think. On an optimistic day – which I believe is accurate – that mantra changes to almost nobody cares what you think. If we are becoming the people who listen and grow, how else would we be exposed to fresh new perspectives that change our own? Maybe we have to try, at some point. But what about all of the relationship wreckage that will surely litter our lives?

What about that??? Is it worth it?

See? Tension. We are asked to hold most things with 2 hands, rarely is anything purely black and white, no matter how much we want them to be. No matter how much we want a guidebook that will enter data and receive the correct answer.

Sometimes sure, it is worth it. Others, no way. And sometimes the yes and no are for precisely the same reason: because the relationship is that important.

Maybe this is why my lesson on Release is taking soooooooo long.

Fighting — October 22, 2019

Fighting

I am sitting at my dining room table. This is unusual because I usually sit in the living room in a super-soft and cozy reclining chair that was given to me. I’m here because we have a fish tank in here, so I’m facing that direction watching the colors of the light fade into one other, wanting to write this post but having NO IDEA what to write. Incidentally, there aren’t any fish in this tank. Just 2 snails.

Staring at the tank, through the water, I can see a 4×6 index card I have on my mirror. I have 2. 1 has a quote from a Mark Steele book, Half-Life/Die Already I think: “I don’t know what’s coming. But I know it will not be too much.” The one I’m interested in today has a Bible verse, Nehemiah 4:14 (I mistakenly wrote 5:14): “Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your friends, your family, and your homes.” On my mind this morning – and last night as I lay awake, unable to sleep – is the fight I had with my boys and it’s consequences.

I don’t care what the fight was about, to tell you the truth, except to remember that they lost their video games for 2 days (!!??!!) and to follow through on that ban.

What happened afterwards is what I care about. I live my life in such a way that, if you and I have a disagreement, no matter how heated it may get, when it’s over, it’s over. You see, when I was growing up, I had a dad who would withhold himself from me in anger and/or disappointment. There would be days and weeks where he would silently ignore me until he didn’t, and then we could go back to normal. It was crushing and never failed to thoroughly break my heart. So, in all of my other relationships, I promised that we would never so carelessly waste precious moments like that. Early in our marriage, Angel and I would argue and she would attempt to escape to…well, who knows why she would try to escape? Possibly to stop the escalating tension and gather thoughts, a count-to-10 situation. But what I do know is that those attempts would be unsuccessful. Because my dad did this kind of thing and we are waaaaay too important to miss. We are such valuable gifts. He was, too, (especially to me), but I didn’t have a say then. Now I do. So we would fight and then the fights would be over and we could hold each other’s hands and give each other smooches again.

Yesterday, the boys got in trouble and, minutes later, I wanted to show something to Samuel. Whatever it was was cool and interesting, I’m sure, but that something was also to display that we were still in love. It has recently been pointed out to me that I stand in certain places and move in certain ways as to initiate physical contact. Probably, that’s true. AND HE MOVED AWAY FROM ME, just an inch or 2, just enough so we were not touching.

He was mad or sulking or whatever and wanted to wound me, and he did. But at what cost? I’ve been teaching one thing their whole lives; that we do not withhold ourselves from others to manipulate or control. Well, 2 things; that we can argue and that’s ok – our love is unconditional.

Now, I’m mad and sulking and whatever. Mostly sad. I’ve failed as a parent blah blah blah. That my dad is gone and I miss him like crazy, and now my boys and I are going to miss each other forever. You know how these thoughts pile up, like a terrible avalanche of sadness and loss.

And here’s Nehemiah. What does it mean to fight for my friends, my family, and my home? Sigh. I guess it means to take my tears and wounded-ness and plow through his rebellion. Because he’s 14 and I’m right – this is not always the case, but in this one, it FOR SURE is. We are waaaaay too important, and some things are worth fighting for. I may have to chase him around like I did (and sometimes do) with my wife, but this story is going to end with big bear hugs and a tidal wave of smooches on his cheeks that he only pretends to hate.

I didn’t know what it meant to fight for my dad and those sweet moments that were gone too soon, but maybe in fighting for these, now, we are all fighting to reclaim those, too.

Rest 2019 — January 1, 2019

Rest 2019

I know resolutions don’t usually work, so I won’t be making one.

What I will do, on the other hand, is use this time to look back, reflect, consider what, who and where I’ve been while giving some attention as to where I’d like to go, who I’d like to be. As the Cheshire Cat said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter what path you take,” (or something like that. You get the point.)

I choose a focus word every year and for several years it has been some variation on letting go, releasing. This year it’s rest. What I mean by that is not that I am super busy and working myself to death. In fact, if you saw my life – routine, schedule, etc – you’d rudely laugh at my word. Instead, my study has led me to a belief that ‘rest’ is essentially synonymous with ‘trust.’ Can we trust enough to stop, to cease, to be unproductive? It’s a hard question. And where it gets tough for me is; can I trust enough to release you? You see, I create (these posts, sermons, a book you’d just love, my life, and on and on) and the important thing about creating is that you do it, right? The second most important thing is that you’re honest – that the work comes from a place of authenticity, and it’s very difficult to do that if my concern is if somebody else likes it, if it’s valuable to him or her, if it elicits some form of positive response. Those things are not for me to decide, and once they supersede the simple beauty of the offering, then they stop being honest and turn into pandering, needy drivel. And there’s enough of that, isn’t there?

I faithfully give everything I have to the work, and then offer it up, and where it goes from there is anyone’s guess. The second ‘where it goes’ becomes the point, the offering is ego-driven and selfish, and the ‘offering’ drifts into control, and that’s gross. The big question is, will I trust enough to release my grip on expectations and control?

The truth is, I don’t know. I hope so. I know I’ll sleep better if I do. But today is January 1 and I’ll try to rest/trust today – I’m doing ok so far – and then I’ll try again tomorrow. Happy New Year!